GREEN BAY - The football was lost in stadium lights. When Robertson Daniel looked up Sunday night, that’s all he saw. The Green Bay Packers cornerback was alone down the right sideline with receiver Davante Adams.
He couldn’t find the ball.
This was a precarious situation. A year ago, Daniel would’ve panicked. He didn’t lose his cool this time. Daniel turned his focus to Adams. His assignment. Always remember the assignment.
“I kind of look back toward him,” Daniel said, “to see if the ball was going to come to him. As soon as it hit his hands, I tried to grab it from him. Because I couldn’t see it in the air.
“Once I saw it hit his hands, I stuck my hand in there, and I actually almost had it. But it fell right out.”
Incomplete. A big play was wiped out.
It was a stark difference to Daniel’s rookie season. Undrafted a year ago, Daniel spent 2015 on the Packers' practice squad. He watched. He learned. He got better.
Through camp’s first week, his improvement showed. Daniel hasn’t been perfect, getting beaten at times. But he has jumped more routes. Made more plays. Defended passes and forced incompletions and, yes, stripped receivers from their catches.
It’s too early in camp to hand out jobs, but Daniel is positioning himself well for what will be one of the most hotly contested roster spots. With Demetri Goodson serving a four-game suspension to start the season, the Packers need to find a fifth cornerback. Daniel will compete against undrafted rookies Makinton Dorleant, Josh Hawkins, Randall Jette and Warren Gatewood.
“I don’t have a choice,” Daniel said. “I’ve got to make it.”
It’s the urgency only a new father could feel. Daniel’s daughter, Marleina, was born Wednesday. He missed the Packers' second training-camp practice to witness her birth.
Yes, Daniel said, employment would be a good thing right now.
“It makes it a lot more real,” he said. “It makes it to where it’s a job you’ve got to get done. There’s no (excuses). You’ve got to go out there, you’ve got to play good, and you’ve got to do it so you can feed her.”
Daniel said he benefited from his year on the practice squad. Asked what areas he improved most, he simply said everything. It was fitting Daniel stripped the football from Adams on Sunday night. His awareness, especially, has grown through his first full offseason.
But Daniel needs consistency. He has been beaten deep in camp. He has missed assignments. On Sunday, Daniel also blew coverage on a slant route.
A year ago, Daniel would’ve lingered on his mistake. He didn’t lose his cool this time. Daniel turned his focus to the next play, and eventually beat on the Packers’ top receivers.
“My rookie year,” Daniel said, “it was (hard to move onto the next play). Now, it’s not because I understand it. You’re going to make mistakes, but when you make it, it’s all about correcting it the next time. Doing it the right way instead of dwelling on it and thinking, ‘Oh, man, I made this play. What’s going to happen to me on the depth chart?’
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